Northern Ireland street artist turns hand to Colombian peace-building initiative

JMK (Jonny McKerr) working with youth groups from some of Cali's most affected neighbourhoods
JMK (Jonny McKerr) working with youth groups from some of Cali's most affected neighbourhoods

A street artist from Lurgan has been using his talents in Colombia to promote peace-building initiatives.

Jonny McKerr, better known as JMK, was working with a number of youth groups in the city of Cali, south west of the capital Bogota.

He said his work was focused on some or the more deprived, interface areas, as well as contributing to the Graficalia international street art festival.

“This visit has undoubtedly been life-changing,” he said.

“It has really lit a fire, giving me more energy to keep on creating new work. I was lucky enough to work with young people who are part of a Youth at Risk programme and those in a juvenile prison, and once they got into it, they were so enthusiastic about creating their own artwork.”

The visit was part of a nine-day programme facilitated by the British Council, during which the artist took part in several workshops with young offenders and youth groups, as well as creating street art inspired by the people and history of the south American country.

“The project seems to be making a real change to young people’s lives in the city and I wish I could have spent more time with them. Graficalia gives them a common goal and something they can be proud of.”

Jonny, who got involved in street art seven years ago having trained in Fine Art at Ulster University, added: “The reaction of the locals ... was incredible – tooting their horns as they drove by – with people from both communities loving the work and being so grateful.”

Jonathan Stewart of the British Council NI said: “Jonny has been a fantastic ambassador for Northern Ireland.

“Using street art as a transformational tool, he has created beautiful artwork for the people of Cali, while inspiring young people to pursue art as a way to move forward.”

Further information is available at Instagram: @artJMK, Twitter: @JonnyMcKerr or Facebook: /JMKart